Thursday, October 16, 2008
Time, and the inner clock
What is the "inner clock?" And what is its relationship to inner work?
Our entire planet is covered with a very thin layer of biological organisms. Almost without exception, every organism has an inner clock. Even our individual cells themselves have inner clocks by which they time their activities.
All biological functions in organisms are regulated and timed so that they take place in the correct order, with the correct amount of time between them. Collectively, organisms time themselves in accordance with circadian rhythms -- that is, rhythms related to daylight and darkness -- but they also regulate themselves in accordance with both lunar rhythms, and seasonal rhythms. So there is both an individual and a planetary, or astral, nature to the inner clock. The inner clock senses events we may not be aware of in our ordinary mind. This measuring instrument, in other words, has direct, "hard-wired" connections to a very big picture which we are for the most part completely unaware of. It is, for the most part, driven by the influences of the sun, which, in the Gurdjieff cosmology, is at a very high level.
Timing mechanisms are the marvel of the biological world. No one knows, for example, exactly how and why 17-year cicadas all manage to hatch at the same time. There are many examples like this, examples where a group of organisms separated by obstacles that absolutely prevent any direct communication--such as, in the case of the cicadas, soil -- manage to simultaneously arrive at precisely the same place, at the same time, in order to reproduce. The ability of fireflies to synchronize their timing is spectacular. There are spectacular fish and bird and even insect migrations (the monarch butterfly) that accomplish similar feats. All across the planet, time drives the machine of biology.
Time has unique qualities. Modern physicists generally agree that time, as a "thing," does not exist, yet we all perceive it. One could even, in theory, run time backwards.
Gurdjieff called time the merciless heropass, and presented it as the chief reason that God created the universe. One might presume that it was in fact entropy itself which God sought to overcome. (As Stuart Kauffman points out in his book "Reinventing The Sacred," the forces of entropy should theoretically affect time whether it runs forwards or backwards. His observations about that are quite fascinating, and have a bearing on Gurdjieff's cosmology.)
Judging from our study of the world of biology, it appears as though creating the universe in order to conquer time was a deal with the devil. It turns out that the universe--or at least, in any event, biological life --cannot function without time. In other words, the fabric of the universe had to incorporate the enemy itself in order to exist. Or, perhaps, there was just no way whatsoever--even for God--to escape the influences of time.
One could ponder this theoretical question a great deal more. Let's move along, instead, to where it touches our personal inner work.
I think it's safe to say that for God to have found it necessary to react to it, there is something quite unique about time. And I have at least one group member and friend in the work who has said many times that one of our chief problems is that we do not perceive time accurately.
This bring us to the movements. In the movements, we study many things: sensation, movement, attention, to name just a few.
We also study the perception and experience of time.
In movement, when one relaxes inside the movement itself, one discovers the effort to align oneself as perfectly as possible with the timing of the movement. One spends many years in classes listening to teachers emphasize the need to "get there on time" -- to arrive in the position quite precisely in relationship to the tempo of the music. If one truly begins, even for a moment, to inhabit the movement, the synchronization of the body and the mind with the time becomes almost effortless. A peculiar organic satisfaction then arises in relationship to the experience of time. We anticipate; we move; all of our parts arrive with precision in a new position.
Mr. Gurdjieff must have been quite interested in having us study time itself. Not from a theoretical point of view, but rather, to see what the experience of time in movement consists of, and how each of us has an inner clock that regulates this kind of activity.
Now, I will say quite frankly, I can't tell you why he was interested in having us study this. One may presume, however, that he felt it was of great importance.
Let us consider taking a look at the functioning of our inner clock; the way that the rhythm of life works both inside and outside of movement. Let us try and see what the experience of time in relationship to the body's ability to measure it consists of. It is an area of study that connects us to something deeply organic -- something primeval, a biological quality we share with all the other organisms on this planet.
Mankind's profound and longstanding cultural tradition of music is, in large part, a study of time and its relationship to the body and emotional center. In other words, our primary sensory tool for time is not just the (usually) sleepy, inattentive mind. We sense time with the body and the emotions.
What does that mean? It draws us deeper into what it means to be human.
And that is never a bad place to start discovering ourselves.
May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.